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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Closing the Curtain: Choir Presidents Leave Lasting Legacy

Courtesy of Elise Trenk
Leading the group in musical practices, choir presidents Kayla Contello ’24, Annika Iyer ’24, and Elise Trenk ’24 stand together singing. With strong ties to music, the presidents weaved their passion for choir with their creative leadership to foster a supportive and talented choral community. “My goal is always about making this the best memory it can be for everyone involved,” Trenk said. “I want my personal legacy to have [created] a community built around making choir fun and a safe space for all of us.”

Dimming lights highlight the contours on the smiling faces of the stage’s occupants, the echoes of captivating vocals and enchanting melodies still bouncing off the acoustic wooden walls of the Raymond E. Hartfield Performing Arts Center (PAC). Sharing joyful glances from their respective places on stage, Westwood Choir Presidents Kayla Contello ‘24, Annika Iyer ‘24, and Elise Trenk ‘24 look proudly across the spread of elementary, middle, and high schoolers that made up the featured chorus of Westwood’s Vertical Concert. 

Striving to leave a lasting legacy not only for their fellow Westwood Choir students, Contello, Iyer, and Trenk have worked to foster a supportive and musical environment for younger and older community members alike. Utilizing their newfound officer positions to organize classic fundraisers with twists, host choir camps to engage the youth community in sharing the love for singing, and celebrate the art of choral music, the presidents have successfully built Westwood Choir to become a welcoming and harmonious community. 

“I feel like more than half of our job is making sure the community stays strong, rather than actually fundraising and planning events, which we do a lot of. But  I feel like the most important part of it is just making sure we are retaining inclusivity and a good foundation [for future generations],” Contello said. “When people need a space to just be, they’ll come into the choir room, choir student or not, because they know that they’ll be met with open arms — and that’s what I really want to keep, and I think one of the best parts of the choir is just that place of belonging.”

When people need a space to just be, they’ll come into the choir room, choir student or not, because they know that they’ll be met with open arms — and that’s what I really want to keep, and I think one of the best parts of the choir is just that place of belonging.

— Kayla Contello '24

As spearheads of one of Westwood’s core musical programs, the presidents not only showcase  collaborative leadership strategies but embody the most crucial aspect of being a president: passion. All three share deep ties to music and singing that trace back to their early childhood years. A massive part of their lives, Contello, Iyer, and Trenk have dedicated time and energy to honing their craft. For Contello, music has always been a large part of her family, with the gift of choral art passing from her singer mother to her. Iyer, on the other hand, explored a more diverse facet of singing, namely Indian Carnatic music, before the allure of school choir led her to the path of Western choral music. 

“I [don’t plan on] pursuing a degree in music, at least not right now, but I have plans to join a choir wherever I go to college,” Iyer said. “Maybe I’ll join an acapella group [to explore] something different, but I definitely want singing to stay in my life, because it really is a big part [of it].”

As individuals, each of the presidents express themselves in unique ways, ranging from their personalities to their diverse leadership styles. However, when it comes to a co-presidency, a balance of power and mutual understanding is the bare minimum, and when it comes to these three, their deep and mature relationships with one another spanning across the years has evolved into a supportive and harmonious bond amongst themselves. Raising their time as presidents from good to great, their deep interpersonal relationship with each other enhances the various nuances and facets of the program to craft a meaningful and engaging choir experience for the entire program. 

“[The experience as a choir president] has been good so far, and this is [actually] the first year having three,” Contello said. “It’s usually always been one or two, but we’ve kind of been a trio since our freshman year — like we’ve always kind of known — it wouldn’t ever be just one or two of us, it was always going to be three of us. I remember [the director] pulled us and he was like ‘Guys, I just can’t pick between you’, and we were just kind of like ‘Were you going to…?’, so we kind of always knew — and we [definitely] balance each other out really well.”

Diverging from simply offering an invaluable opportunity for the presidents to showcase their talents in leadership and innovative management techniques, Westwood Choir has become a hub for the presidents to hone their own musical skills and celebrate the talents as well as styles of the music and individuals around them. Trenk mentions that in addition to providing her with a safe, fun space, Westwood Choir has allowed her to explore numerous different aspects in music, ranging from slow, lyrical melodies to upbeat, rhythmic styles. Contello has also experienced a personal journey in traversing through the musical landscape of styles, techniques, and themes during her time with Westwood Choir. 

“I’ve definitely developed a taste in music, specifically in choral music- which I feel like it takes a long time to do because at some point all of it just sounds the same,” Contello said. “I think the Westwood stereotype [is that] we like slow Renaissance pieces, [but] me personally, I like a lot of dissonance in my pieces, so stuff that doesn’t sound good, but it does.”

As they gain familiarity with their new positions and their new dynamic amongst themselves, the presidents leverage their strong relationship to balance each other out.

“I think we knew a lot of the potential for improvement because we had seen a lot of the officer teams in the past we could grow off of, and we knew the choir community well,” Trenk said. “It’s really easy, and I feel like I’m very supported [at all times]. I can just delegate jobs,  like ‘I’m really busy, Kayla can you do this?’. It’s just super easy to bounce ideas and balance the tasks.”

Exhibiting her love for singing and music as well as her innate passion for taking initiative through creative mediums outside of school, Contello interns at Canyon Vista Middle School to assistant teach their Honors Choir. 

“I love working with the kids and they are the absolute highlight of my day,” Contello said. “ I drive over there really early in the morning, and actually the first words I speak in the morning are to them — and it’s really nice, it’s a good way to start off my day because the kids there are so sweet, and they’re so talented and [knowing] that these are going to be us in a few years [makes it more special].”

As the spring semester begins to stream into the multitude of academic and extracurricular activities and major events, Westwood Choir finds themselves preparing extensively for a range of both high-pressure competitions and spotlight musical showcases as fitting capstones to this school year. Siphoning off the success of the fall semester’s musical programs, the Vertical Concert remains a memorable experience and a valuable paragon for the presidents to work off of this particular semester. The concert is an opportunity for Westwood Choir to branch out to its respective learning community, incorporating elementary, middle, and high school students in a musical performance open to the community. 

“The Vertical Concert was so important [to me],” Contello said. “[Especially] because my little sister was there [and] I got to sing with her because we bring the elementary schoolers in, and then of course I interned at the middle school so all of the students that I helped teach were also there, and then my friends at high school [were there too] so it’s like from each level, I feel like I had an area of support, and it was just a really good experience.”

Striving to craft a fun-filled and talent-packed musical itinerary of the semester, Contello, Iyer, and Trenk have blocked out the highlighted events of these few months and have charted out the ideal practices and performance-readiness events to ensure that Westwood Choir is at their best for each and every contest or concert. 

“[For competitions], it’s really nice to see just how other choirs perform and how we stack up against them,” Iyer said. “I think it’s a really important experience for our choir members to have because it does teach us a lot about what are strengths and weaknesses are so that when we come back [from Madfest (a contest)], it’s [just in] time for UIL so we have time to polish things and make sure that we’re all really happy with the place we’re in with our music.”

Concluding the school year with their spring show, Playlist, the presidents have worked to put an innovative spin on a classic choir concert. With a unique theme and a prospects of further involvement in the greater Westwood community, Contello, Iyer, and Trenk have set the stage to deliver an entertaining and sweet musical experience. 

“Our theme [for Playlist] this year is Girl Talk, so that’s all songs that have been written or performed by female artists,” Iyer said. “We’re starting to plan for that, making sure that we have all the things necessary to make sure it runs smoothly.”

Aiming to go beyond a normal school organization’s responsibilities and activities, Contello, Iyer, and Trenk have worked to make Westwood Choir a safe haven for its students, offering them a valuable space complete with caring peers and a homely environment. 

“We are a family, we always can rely on each other, and we know when others are struggling, and everyone, in fact, does a really good job of making sure that everyone feels that they are welcome and that they have a space where they can be themselves, express themselves — especially when they are going through a hard time,” Iyer said. “What I, personally, want to leave behind is for choir members to know that they will always have a place here and no matter if they need help or just need a place to be when they’re going through a hard time, they can know that choir can be that place for them, and that everyone in the program will support them no matter what’s going on.”

Closing the curtains on their time with Westwood Choir, Contello, Iyer, and Trenk aim to leave a lasting legacy for their successors and to spend valuable time with the current underclassmen in order to assist them in honing their innate talent as well as involving them in key team-building events. As their time with the choir comes to an end, the presidents work diligently to ensure that they’ve left behind a supportive, warm, and welcoming environment. 

“I’m really sad to see [Westwood Choir] go,” Contello said. “But, you kinda know that it’s time to move on, and I feel good. I think I have a good feeling that I know who is going to take over and how that’s going to go, and we know there’s always a place [for us here].” 


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Aarya Kale
Aarya Kale, Reporter
Class of 2026 Hey! Besides being a passionate writer and photographer, I also happen to have a liking for all things cheese :) If I don’t happen to be eating some, I’m probably off reading a nice book or hanging out with my friends!

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